March 14, 2017- Doing Life God’s Way -Matthew 7:21-23

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(Jesus said): “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your Name, and in Your Name drive out demons, and in Your Name perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.  Away from Me, you evildoers!’”  Matthew 7:21-23 (NRSV)

This is not an easy text, but a necessary one. Jesus never shies away from telling the truth, even when the truth is hard.  There will be a day in which every one of us will be called to account to God.  We will have to be honest with ourselves and with God about what we have done with our lives. Judgment is never something that any of us look forward to, especially because the human condition is such that we can never be justified by our own merit or good works.  The good news for us is that Jesus took the punishment that we deserve, and by HIS grace and mercy we are justified. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Jesus is not condemning anyone here, but what He is looking for is simple. Where are our hearts? Are we trying to make ourselves look good, or are we following Him?

We are not capable in our own strength and power to do the will of God. And God’s will for each of us is different.  We can’t all have the high profile roles of prophesy or driving out demons or performing miracles. We can’t all look good and mighty and popular as we serve God.  Sometimes we serve God most fully when we are in the midst of the most obscure, unpopular and unlovely- but necessary-tasks.

If everyone were doing just those glorious and splendid appearing things such as driving out demons, then who would be the truck drivers, or brick layers, or accountants?  Even doing the most mundane of tasks is doing the will of God, if those tasks are surrendered to and performed to the glory of God.

A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26 (NRSV)

God gives all of us a purpose and a vocation.  He also gives us the opportunity to receive a new heart that is His home, a heart that longs to do His will.

The question Jesus gives us here is, are we doing life the way that God has made us to do life?

December 29, 2016-God Sees the Heart, and Beauty for Ashes- 1 Samuel 16:7, 10-13, Ezekiel 36:26, Isaiah 61:3

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But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 

Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.”   Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.”  He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.”   Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah. 1 Samuel 16:7, 10-13 (NRSV)

I find encouragement in the story of David.  He wasn’t anyone who we would consider to be a “first pick.”  He had older and stronger and more “qualified” brothers.  He was consigned to the lowly and dirty job of caring for sheep. Even David’s own father considered him an afterthought.   Yet God knew his heart, and God chose David over his seemingly better equipped brothers.

God doesn’t always choose the beautiful people, or the strong people, or the smart people.  In fact, the theme throughout Scripture is that God equips those who He chooses. He has a real sense of humor in it too, as time and time again He chooses the underdog, the meek, the weak, the poor, and the flawed through which to do His greatest work.  We discover as we study the Bible that the only real hero in the Bible is God, and that He does amazing things with and through really messed up people.

Our potential lies in what God empowers us to do, not in what the world sees in us.  Even the condition of our hearts is not impossible for God to change.

A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26 (NRSV)

When we are put in those wilderness places, when we fall short and we know full well we aren’t among the “beautiful people,” or we have been used by others and left hurting for a long time, it’s easy for our hearts to become hard.  Yet God has the power to take our hard hearts and give us new ones- hearts that are after His own heart, hearts that God can use for His good purpose.

Even better news is that God brings restoration and healing to the hurting.  Not only can we be put to God’s good purpose, in the process of doing His work He makes us whole.

…to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair. Isaiah 61:3 (NIV)

Beauty for ashes.  Greatness from unlikely places and from even more unlikely people.  Such is the nature of God.